17% of the children in the U.S. are obese. That’s over twelve million kids. This doesn’t even count the ones that are overweight but not to the obese mark. These children need our help, but how can we help them?

Doctor: This should be the first step, even before a diet plan is made. Some medical conditions may be a factor in a child’s weight problem. Being obese can cause some medical conditions. These have to be factored in as the first step in the program.

Nutritionist: Tweeking a child’s diet is a little more complicated than an adults. Children are still growing so nutrition is important. A nutritionist can help you understand calorie needs, foods that give the most nutrients per calorie and whether or not a vitamin/mineral supplement would be important.

The nutritionist can also help you find recipes and teach how to plan menus. A diet does not necessarily mean that a child is hungry but it will mean a change in what is eaten. This will affect the entire family.

Help the child: Helping children help themselves is a major key to a successful diet plan. Explain what’s happening and what changes will be made. Take the child to the supermarket and show the things that can replace high calorie snacks.

Set reasonable goals and reward the child for meeting them. Naturally food shouldn’t be a reward but perhaps an outing to the park to play ball would be in order. Choosing an active reward also benefits by encouraging exercise.

Family Affair: Making this a team effort is essential. This is due in part to fairness. A child eating a carrot for a snack and watching a slender sibling downing potato chips is not going to work well. Instead, choose snacks for everyone that fit into the diet plan.

There is another reason I suggest this. Setting a good example for all of your children is important. You are teaching them what they should be eating for the rest of their lives.

The problem with diets is that they eventually end. Then the person who was on the diet goes back to old habits and the process repeats itself. What we parents should be teaching is a lifestyle change that includes healthy foods and exercise. If everyone does it, no one feels left out.

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